Saving Deeds and Words

In her book, Amazing Grace, Kathleen Norris tackles and redefines many key Christian phrases and terms, thereby richly gifting the rest of us.  Kathleen Norris is a word crafter, an artist from Dakota who teaches literature and writing to both children and adults. Her writing draws me like a magnet.        

Norris fled the church as a young adult and returned to it with renewed passion as a mature adult.  Why? Because her return to faith provided a second chance for her life and her marriage. Norris’ return to Christianity embodies a very tangible salvation, which brings me to a term she has breathed new life into for me.

Norris introduces the topic of salvation with the story of an acquaintance who worked on the oil patches of Montana. He had come back home to Dakota because that life had gotten too rough for him. Work on oil patches had connected him with drug dealers. He had thought he was managing his business contacts just fine until he realized he was in over his head and needed to get out.

That decision to get out, says Norris, was the beginning of his salvation. Digging up the language root she unearthed the meaning of the Hebrew word for salvation as to make wide or to make sufficient.

Her acquaintance had recognized that the road he had taken was not wide enough to sustain his life; it was sufficient only as a way leading to death. She writes, “In the gospels salvation language is often used when people seek physical healing from Jesus. When he says to them that their faith has saved them, it is the Greek word for made you well that is used. [1] Norris claims that most of us initially experience salvation in physical here and now terms. The more spiritual implications make themselves known later on.

What a refreshing view of this word that some of us have struggled with! As I reflect on the events and messages that have made me well, that have helped make my life sufficient for its challenges, I think of experiences and words that let me know I am beloved,  that I am enough to be a blessing for others, and that I am part of a beloved community.

Come to think of it, those were messages that helped get Jesus through his passion. May they go with you and me as we remember that passion once again. And may you hear saving words, or have experiences of which you can say, “They made me well.”


[1] Kathleen Norris: Amazing Grace: a Vocabulary of Faith, Riverhead Books. 1998, page 20.


About Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel

As a young senior whose life could easily have ended in a nasty car crash in 2012 I live with an extra dose of gratitude to God, humanity, and the wonders of our human bodies. I am a passionate advocate for ministry WITH children and seniors in the life and ministry of the church. I started working in Faith Formation with Mennonite Church Canada in 2002. Thinking and writing about faith helps me see God at work in all kinds of surprising places. I'd like to be remembered as one who encourages others to live into God's good dream for our world. My book, Please Pass the Faith: The Spiritual Art of Grandparenting, is one big way I'm trying to share that encouragement with my peers. This blog is another way I'd like to engage people who care about growing in faith across the generations.
This entry was posted in Intergenerational worship, Senior Spirituality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Saving Deeds and Words

  1. Dave Bergen says:

    Kathleen Norris’ writing in the book you cite has also been like a drink of cool, fresh water for me. It is so necessary to invest our faith vocabulary with meaning that communicates to our time and experience.

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